A social programme working on environmental fields and contributing to both soft mobility and valorisation of natural heritage of rivers.
Au Fil de l'Eau is an NGO working in both social and environmental fields. Au fil de l'eau employs poor and long-term unemployed people from Val-de-Marne to help them in their social and economic integration. The employees maintain riverbanks, and organise boat cruises and other activities to promote environmental awareness along the Marne and Seine rivers.

Each weekend from May until the end of September, Au Fil de l’Eau provides a shuttle service to cross the river in several places, using small ecological boats (12 passengers maximum and some bikes). This service is used both by commuters and visitors. It is integrated in the soft mobility facilities of the territory and is a good asset for multimodality and enhanced connectivity with public transport.

Au Fil de l’Eau also offer boat trips to discover the natural heritage of the Marne river. These small river cruises (1:30 maximum) are commented to enhance the biodiversity and raise awareness of the public for environment protection.

The boats used are small catamarans called “catalantes”. Although they are not electric, they are nevertheless environmentally friendly because they do not disturb the riverbanks (generating no waves, being quiet, etc.)

Au fil de l’eau activities are strongly supported by local authorities at regional, county, and city levels. This financial support is essential to implement the social programme and ensure accessibility with very low prices for users and visitors.

Resources needed

Almost 50 employees are working for Au fil de l'eau.
Example of costs :
Boat shuttle: 48 000€ /year to provide 2 boats (2 different locations) paid by local authorities.
Commented cruises: 50 000€ /year. With the financial support of Saint-Maur municipality & Public Administration.

Evidence of success

Figures :
> Navigation - Cruises et river cross ferries : 40 000 passengers a year.
> Educational actions in classerooms, on riverside and on boats : 150 shools classes a year.
> Social and professional inclusion : 40 people supported each year.

Au fil de l'Eau activities are supported by different partners : public administrations, local authorities (counties, districts, cities…) & foundations… about 35 different organisations.

Difficulties encountered

To sustain the seasonal by providing river cross ferries/boat shuttle during the whole year and to connect it with the urban transport system in 2024.

Energy transformation of the boats in electric..

Potential for learning or transfer

Sustainable mobility is an important issue, it seems that sustainable modes of mobility are not used enough when creating river tourism products. Au fil de l’eau boat trips and shuttle services engage and therefore help long-term unemployed people, provide sustainable options of mobility, and participate in raising awareness on natural heritage protection.

STAR Cities partners found the following aspects of the good practice of inspiration :
- Combination of environment protection and social inclusion. The social dimension of sustainability is also important !
- Support fragile and weak people, the unemployed, and offer a service that might not be profitable for a private company.
- Pedagogic aspect, refering to the educational activities with schools.

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Main institution
Au fil de l'Eau
Île de France, France
Start Date
January 2004
End Date


Camille Chowah Please login to contact the author.